09 - MEXICO
Loreto to Pachuca - 24/10/03 - 09/11/03
We finally left our little bungalow in Loreto after spending much longer there than expected. We spent a good deal of our time doing the web site and catching up with things from home.
We managed to get our gear a lot better organised, more secure.
Joyce & Chame
We had a great day out with Joyce and a friend of hers who has a boat. We went to a little island and went snorkelling. It was great to say hello to the fish again. The familiar sound of fish munching through coral brought back memories of Australia. We also had a close encounter with some Sea lions.
Loreto is a great little town. Tourism looks set to boom there soon. It has just become a stop on the cruise ship trail. It's really odd seeing a town before during and after a cruise hit. The place suddenly woke up. A band playing in the square, loads more gift stalls, al fresco cafes and bars appearing out of nowhere and American pensioners everywhere. It's strange to think that their impression of the place will be completely different to ours.
Our little bungalow at suKasa was perfect, like having our own home there. I'm sure the guy at the internet cafe is missing us, even though he refused to smile even once!
Last Night in Loreto
Joyce was great to us, and what was supposed to be our last night there we went out for a meal. Ended up drinking three bottles of wine, doing a bar crawl, several shots of tequila, playing pool with three poor Mexican guys who went in for a quiet game and getting home at four in the morning. Needless to say we couldn't actually leave the next day!
When we managed to get on the road again we headed south to La Paz to get the ferry to the mainland. Stayed in a great little hotel for a couple of nights and found a really good Spanish language book.
So the ferry, what an experience! The port was about 20ks north of town so off we went. The sailing was at three but we had been told to get there for 12.30.
We saw the ferry round the other side of the bay, so carried on past a few rusty looking ships and pulled up at the barrier. This turned out not to be our ferry. We went back as directed and found ourselves queuing to get on one of the rusty old things we had past! It really didn't look good. It was a roll on roll off type, but turned out that the roll off bit didn't work. We sat for three hours watching cars, 4WD's and huge cargo Lorries turn round and reverse into the bowels of this rust heap feeling more & more uneasy. When the bow door is that rusty I guess it's just best not to open it??? We were happily distracted for the last hour by Justin who rolled up and joined us on his Suzuki Katana 750. He has started his trip from Washington DC and is heading for Tierra del Feugo. His once pretty bike was looking a little sad, the whole of the front was held together with gaffa tape & super glue & parts of the faring were now cardboard. He'd had a bit of a mishap on a Curva Peligrosa! He had a few bruises but a big grin and we swapped a few bikey tales.
We all watched in disbelief as the ferry was loaded. Each time a lorry went on it tilted from side to side. There was a guy suspended over one side hitting it for no apparent reason with some metal implement. R suggested he was maybe trying to straighten it up. We all laughed about this far too much, getting more & more nervous about spending 18 hours on this heap of a boat. I decided the first job on board would be to find our route from cabin to deck.
We were shoved in last of all and there was nowhere to tie the bike to. We were hurried off the car deck as they were late leaving and were not really happy about how we had to leave the bike. About half an hour later we tried to find our way back to the bike but couldn't get in. We bumped into Justin who was trying to do the same as he had got oil on his shirt and wanted to get a clean one. Luckily he speaks Spanish really well having lived in El Salvador, and found a steward who let him back down to the car deck. We asked him to check on the bike and put an extra choc behind the back wheel, if he could find one.
He was back in five minutes "your bike's on its side, lets go". We both just looked at him. We were both thinking the same thing. "C'mon Justin smile, only known you an hour but I know you're a kidder, where's that grin?"
"C'mon guys lets go pick him up"
The three of us disappeared through the crew door like white rabbits.
It seemed such a long way through all the lorries; it was dark and narrow and stank of diesel & fish. R was being remarkably calm behind me saying the bike was fine on its side, has a gel battery. I felt like my heart was about to explode.
We got round the end of the lorries and there he was, on his side and as R put it later looking extremely curious about what was underneath the truck behind. Justin & Richard dragged him out and stood him up. R learnt a great trick on the BMW off road course and can pick him up pretty easily. Don't quite know what he does but it works.
We turned the bike round and with a bit of time found a way to use our tie down to secure him to the side of the ferry. We left as quickly as we could, R & Justin feeling very sick from the diesel fumes. I was panicking too much to notice; I'm just crap in a crisis!
Hooray! Time to get off
Needless to say we didn't sleep at all. The ferry pitched from side to side, it was a very long night. This was our ferry nightmare; the thought of the bike falling and sliding up & down the oily, rusty deck. Well the worst had happened, but he seemed fine. Thank goodness for Touratech crash bars and aluminium panniers and for Justin getting oil on his t-shirt. He is our first official trip hero.
Next morning all was well, we swapped emails with Justin and hope to meet him down the road.
Taco's in the Mountains
From Mazatlan we headed into the mountains. We had hoped to get to Zacatecas that night but the first few hours were very slow. The road was very twisty and steep and there were some lorries we just couldn't get past. The scenery was amazing, forested mountains, so green. We went round one corner and saw a river below. A woman was doing her washing in it. As we came round the corner we realised that the river actually went over the road. It was like something out of The Italian Job. R let a couple of trucks go past and then went for it. We were half way across when a lorry came from the other direction. It was a bit hairy going past and I think I squeaked all the way. We met two Canadians guys on BMW's on the road at about 12.30. They had come from Durango that morning and said the road was pretty slow. We decided we would stop there as we were both tired from little sleep on the evil ferry. They also told us of a great taco stand to stop for lunch about an hour further on. The views were incredible as we munched our tacos and listened to mad mariachi music. The girl at the taco stand was making taco after taco from a huge bowl of dough, with a strange metal press. I was mesmerised and feeling very sleepy.
We felt much better after eating and the road was now pretty flat and straight having reached a plateau at about 8000 ft. Quite chilly though, for the first time in ages it was below 30 degrees and we'd got used to the heat. We made it to Durango at about 3.30 but then lost an hour trying to find somewhere to stay. The center was very confusing so we ended up back on the highway and found ourselves a Best Western where we could park the bike outside the room. The bike seems to have a homing device for Best Westerns! We lost another hour as we had crossed a time zone, so we ate and just fell into bed.
We slept really well and had a good trip to Zacatecas the next morning. The road was pretty flat and straight for most of the journey but then we climbed again through beautiful forests. An amazing variety of tree's and plants with every green imaginable. Hundred's of egg yolk yellow daisy like flowers of all different sizes and occasionally a lone bright crimson one. About an hour away from Zacatecas we crossed the Tropic of Cancer for the second time in two days. On our way north we had crossed it in the middle of road works so we couldn't stop. Here however there was a marker and a place to stop, so we took some pics. We have now crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, in Australia, the Arctic Circle in Norway, and the Tropic of Cancer here in Mexico all by motorbike. Just the Equator to go which we hope to do in Ecuador. Shame the Antarctic Circle isnít possible. We'll have to take a cruise one day but the bike will just have to stay behind.
We arrived in Zacatecas and discovered it's built on steeper hills than San Francisco... oh joy! Found our way to the centre and then had to trawl around for a while trying to find a hotel that had secure parking for the bike.
It's a very old town and the buildings are very confusing. All different levels from front to back. We went into the underground car park and then had to go downstairs to reception at the front of the hotel, which was still above street level.
We went out later and there was a brass band playing in the plaza. They were all ages from four year old maraca players up. They were all in blue & gold uniform and playing what I'm pretty sure was a Ricky Martin song. It was great. We managed to find a restaurant that I think was all local specialties as we didn't recognise a thing. Ended up with some really good food though!
Next day we explored the town. Walked up some incredibly steep steps to the cable car station. Sitting on a bike all day really doesn't help get you fit!
You could see for miles from the top of the hill and we tried to work out how to get out of town the next day. It looked very complicated.
We then went down a silver mine - dull! We always end up in a cave or mine wherever we go. R finds holes in the ground fascinating for some reason. He paid the price though as on the way out we had to catch a little train through a very low tunnel cut in the rock. The flat rock roof totally freaked him out!
We really liked Zacatecas. It's such an old place but heaving with young people, playing music and dancing. It's good fun.
We found our way out of Zacatecas and had a long ride across to Cuidad Valles, having negotiated the ring road of San Louis Potosi.
We found a hotel on the edge of town, where a wedding was being held. We sat and watched all the guests arrive as we had our meal. It was just exactly the way they are at home.
That night we had our first rain since Oregon. R was sitting up half the night listening to Ireland lose the rugby world cup quarter final to France. Not too amused. Woke up to discover it was still raining and that England had beaten Wales - hooray!
It stopped raining but still looked gloomy when we left. Within half an hour we had to stop and put our water proofs on. It just rained and rained.
This was our first taste of the Pan-American Highway. The Mex 85 south to Mexico City. We thought it would be quite a main road but it just got twistier and slower as we went. We had gone down to 200ft above sea level at Cuidad Valles and were climbing back up to 8000ft. For ages though we were just up & down the foot hills. We really wanted to get high quickly and hopefully get out of the rain. We went through so many small towns which meant many many dreaded topes! Topes are an evil Mexican invention. They are basically speed bumps but come in many different guises. Sometimes they're painted bright yellow but mostly not. They are usually signed but sometimes not. They can be four foot wide or six inches. Single or a whole bunch together. They are always very high and tend to be invisible. The very worst are metal and like a row of armored bras across the road. They are as slippy as hell especially in the rain. Occasionally there's a cup or two missing and we can sneak through.
Bike in the Mist
This all made for a very slow day. We didn't get off the bike for three and a half hours and had only done 100 miles!
We went through some incredible places, lots of little towns and villages where life looked pretty tough. The cloud was so thick at times we couldn't see more than a few feet in front of us. We would turn a corner and just see whiteness ahead, then it would clear just as quickly. We finally climbed higher and went through some really heavy rain, before it cleared.
We stopped at a Pemex (Mexico's only petrol stations Ė state run) and worked out where we were. Our goal of Pachuca looked a little unlikely. The pump attendant said it was another three hours by which time it would be dark. Our next fifty miles went pretty quickly. The road was better and straighter and it was finally dry. With another fifty to go it was dusk but we decide to go for it. Suddenly we were in a traffic jam of Lorries and coaches. They just seemed to come out of nowhere. We were getting close to Mexico City. The road was being widened and we kept having to go off and on again. There were buildings all along the road which meant topes everywhere. The Lorries virtually stop to go over them so it was incredibly slow. It was really no fun at all, everyone drives so close and it was so dark. I knew it was very unlikely but I just kept hoping for a Best Western or a Holiday Inn to appear. Riding at night is really not a good idea but I guess you have to do it every now and then to remind yourself. We won't be doing it again in a hurry.
Plaza Juarez - Pachuca
Finally we arrived on the outskirts of Pachuca. I had found out about hotels but they were all right in the centre. The place looked very big in the dark but really pretty. Lots of small hills covered in lights. We followed a sign to the centre and then saw a sign for Hotel Sofia. Not one I had checked but we went for it. As we approached I couldn't believe it, there was the familiar blue sign - a Best Western. Brand new and with a garage so secure the staff couldn't work out how to open the gates for about ten minutes! We were exhausted; we had only done 240 miles, but had been on the bike for over eight hours.
Glad to say our wet weather gear had worked brilliantly. Our leather gloves were the only problem, which we had to ring out.
Plaza de la Independencia
Pachuca is a nice little town and the hotels great so we decided to stay for a couple of days. It's another mining town and there were many Cornish people here in the early 1800`s. They have pasties here which is quite bizarre and apparently it's also how football came to Mexico. There are loads of football kit and trophy shops. Owen would love it.
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